Chapter 9: Federal Communication about Obesity in the Dietary Guidelines and Checkoff Programs
9. Federal communication about obesity in the Dietary Guidelines and checkoﬀ programs Parke E. Wilde1,2 INTRODUCTION The most striking feature of the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released January 2005, is the publication’s increased emphasis on obesity prevention: ‘To reverse the trend toward obesity, most Americans need to eat fewer calories, be more active, and make wiser food choices’ (USDHHS and USDA, 2005). The Dietary Guidelines, which are released every ﬁve years, are intended as the federal government’s most authoritative summary of the state of nutrition science and the basis for all federal communication with consumers on nutrition topics. For most Americans, the new Guidelines recommend increased consumption of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, ﬁsh and low-fat dairy products within a balanced diet where total calories have been moderately reduced. By subtraction, the Guidelines clearly encourage a diet with lower average amounts of some combination of foods from other categories, such as added sugars, high-fat snacks and desserts, meat and high-fat dairy products. Nevertheless, the best-known and best-funded federally sponsored consumer communications promote increased total consumption of beef, pork and dairy products, including calorically dense foods such as bacon cheeseburgers, barbeque pork ribs, pizza and butter. These communications are sponsored by the federal government’s commodity promotion programs, known as ‘checkoﬀ’ programs. The programs are established by Congress, approved by a majority of the commodity’s producers, managed jointly by a producer board and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and funded through a tax on the producers. The federal government...
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